A Hugely Successful Earth Day Celebration

by Sue Ann Kendall

I’m interested in nature, too.

The 2019 Earth Day Celebration is in the books! It was a great success, too! Over 70 people and two dogs visited the Community Room on Main Street in Rockdale to see the El Camino Real Master Naturalists and their exhibits. We were joined by local Girl Scouts of Central Texas troops and the Little River Basin Master Gardeners, too. (It helps that many of our members are also Master Gardeners.)

Rosie Johnson did a great job decorating the outside of the Community Room in Rockdale.

Many thanks go out to Donna Lewis and the rest of the Earth Day Committee, who put in a lot of effort and planning to make this event successful. There were so many details, but they were all handled very well!

Donna Lewis takes a break to talk to Catherine Johnson during setup.

And of course, we truly appreciated all the chapter members who took time out of their holiday weekend to join us and talk to the guests about the importance of taking care of our planet.

Pamela Neeley grabs a new rain gauge from the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District’s contributions.
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Lexington Senior Butterfly Garden Update

photos by Sharon Sweet

Today, Sharon Sweet shares some photos of the butterfly garden project she and Wesley created five or six years ago at the senior center in Lexington, along with a bonus bluebonnet photo, because, well, who can resist those? We hope you enjoy this photo essay.

It has really grown in nicely.
The flowers really add a lot to the formerly bare wall.

This log is on the Willow City loop, outside of Fredericksburg.

Bluebonnets growing out of a log.

Progress on the Milam Wildscape Project

By Catherine Johnson

Volunteers from our chapter have been hard at work! The Milam Wildscape Project that we’ve reporteed on before is progressing quite quickly.

Getting ready to make a fence.

The team has managed to install fencing, arrange some of the cool metal structures at the site, and installed gates so people can get into the garden, but hungry animals stay out.

Here you can see the sturdy new raised path to the chicken house and future raised beds.

El Camino Real Chapter member Larry Kocian is designing pathways and garden plots. He knows the pathways need to be handicap accessible, so they will be wide and smooth.

The next phase is planting. We are now beginning to gather plants.

How are those animals?

So glad you asked! The beautiful kittens and all those hundreds of chicks are growing up at the farm. If you’re looking for chickens, it’s a great time to get some!

I’m also fine, thanks for asking.

The heritage Rio Grande Turkeys are not allowed to roam now, like they used to, as they are old enough that they would run off to make a nest and not come back at night.  We don’t want that!

We can always use more volunteers. Check out Bird and Bee Farm for more information.

Voluteering at Bird and Bee Farm

Our member, Catherine Johnson, visited the Bird and Bee Farm to invite them to speak at a beekeeping workshop last year. There, she met the Reks, who own the farm, and discovered that they were working on making their land a habitat for pollinators, working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Here’s how they tell it:

Bird and Bee Farm is a Conservation Partner in the Pastures for Upland Birds Program.  Over the past 150 years, agricultural land has taken over our native prairies.  Bird and Bee Farm with the assistance of our new partners are replanting our 100 acre farm to return it to Original Native Prairie-Oak Savannah Habitat.    

By establishing native tall-grass and native forbes Bird and Bee Farm will provide an Ecosystem and Habitat for many forms of wildlife including; Eastern Meadowlark, Northern Harrier, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, Dickcissel, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Mourning Dove, Bobwhite, Wild Turkey, and others.  This same habitat will support the Bees, Butterflies (we are on the Monarch Butterfly Migration Path) and other pollinators we so badly need to protect.  

From the Bird and Bee Farm website
The farm also has sheep and donkeys, to help protect the outdoor birrds.

As you could imagine, Catherine realized that working on this project would be great for our chapter. You see, there aren’t any public lands or parks where we can volunteer here in Milam County. Most of the other Master Naturalist groups can log many volunteer hours helping with state or local parks and other nature areas.

Beautiful Rio Grande turkeys. They can fly!

So, Catherine went to work and secured all the permissions needed to allow Master Naturalists to get credit for volunteer work helping set up the plantings, trails, signage, and other aspects of the wildscape project.

Beautiful chicken rearing and sales facility at Bee and Bird Farm.

Since then, the volunteers have helped clear an area for a pollinator garden outside the farm’s chicken house (by the way, the cleanest and happiest chicken world I’ve ever seen; read about it on my blog, if you’d like). They’ve brought in consultants, like Bob Mione, a monarch expert, for advice in soil preparatio, plantings, and fencing (to keep the beautiful guinea fowl from eating the valuable caterpillars that we want to see turn into butterflies).

This turkey would like to eat some caterpillars. But no, not in the special plantings, anyway!

Our next post will be about a wonderful event last Sunday at Bird and Bee Farm, where Master Naturalists from two chapters met to learn more about the life of the monarchs we hope to attract.